Those Indefatigable Byzantines! -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:4 (Fall 2013)
Article: Those Indefatigable Byzantines!
Author: Gary A. Byers

Those Indefatigable Byzantines!

Gary A. Byers


Scott Stripling

The Byzantines were prolific builders of religious structures across Palestine and the entire Mediterranean World. Through these efforts, they preserved the names and identities of many significant biblical sites, providing an important line of evidence for modern scholarship.

Palestine’s Byzantine period began with Constantine becoming sole ruler of the Roman Empire in AD 324 and his founding of a new imperial residence (his “New Rome”) on the site of ancient Byzantium (modern Istanbul) in 330. This monumental change was preceded by the Edict of Milan in 312 which allowed Christians freedom of worship throughout the Roman Empire. The region was thus primed for a special awakening. The new policy of toleration set off a pilgrimage industry and a demographic shift; hence, the Holy Land reached

Michael Luddeni

The church of the Khirbet el-Maqatir monastery as seen from the south. Note the fallen but complete pillar just excavated in the foreground. Behind it and to the right is the main apse of the church. Immediately to its left (west) is the spring of an arch for a small room sitting on bedrock and beneath the church’s altar.

its greatest population density prior to the 19th century.

The Byzantine period of history produced some of the greatest church leaders—often called the post-Nicene Fathers —such as Chrysostom, Eusebius, Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine. During this period, some of Christianity’s earliest structures were erected for religious activity in the Holy Land. While post-biblical, they contributed greatly to biblical studies —helping identify and preserve locations, names, and traditions of numerous Old and New Testament sites. For example, one of the five Byzantine churches built at Shiloh has intact mosaics that actually contain the name Shiloh.

Where The Christians Worshipped

In the New Testament period, churches were primarily associated with houses (Ro 16; 1Co 16:19; Col 4:15; Phm 2). Called domus ecclesia (Greek “house churches”), a few have been identified in archaeology. This includes Peter’s house- turned-shrine (with the later Byzantine church built above it) at Capernaum (Mk 1:29). Apparently a typical first century AD village house w...

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